The NAMI Massachusetts Criminal Justice Diversion Project (CJDP) aims to prevent the unnecessary arrest and detention of individuals with mental illness. The CJDP supports police departments and other first responders in engaging with individuals experiencing mental health crisis, and fosters connections between law enforcement, behavioral health providers, and other community stakeholders. The CJDP is working to develop a statewide strategy to make high quality training on mental illness accessible to police departments in all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
The Criminal Justice Diversion Project has four major goals:
Promote development of high quality police and first responder training programs and specialized response teams on interacting with people with mental illness;
Identify a stable funding stream for police training and specialized police response teams;
Build partnerships between local police, mental health providers, and other stakeholders;
Assure that crisis intervention services are accessible to everyone who requires them by advocating for every public and private insure to cover psychiatric emergency services.
Individuals living with mental illness are at far greater risk of arrest than the general population. “Building Alliances between the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems to Prevent Unnecessary Arrests,” a report commissioned by NAMI Mass and the Association for Behavioral Health (ABH), illustrates the high prevalence of adults and children who are arrested and incarcerated as a result of behaviors that reflect symptoms of their mental illness rather than criminal behavior. Prisons and jails have become de-facto holding areas for people with mental illness, resulting in a wide range of debilitating consequences in individuals’ lives. There is an urgent need to develop and expand a continuum of responsive community-based mental health services as an alternative to arrest and detention.
A number of police departments have already developed training initiatives or created relationships with local mental health providers in order to better serve their communities, in many cases with support from the Department of Mental Health. To learn more about what you can do to help local law enforcement respond more safely and effectively to individuals with mental illness, please contact June Binney, Criminal Justice Project Director at (617) 580-8541.
Collaborated with the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to develop and launch an innovative new mental health curriculum for all municipal police recruits as well as mandatory in-service training for current municipal officers. By the end of 2015, all police officers in the Commonwealth should receive important training on responding to individuals with mental illness.
Partnered with the Somerville and Cambridge Police Departments to develop a Regional Crisis Intervention Training and Technical Assistance Center, with support from DMH. Over 90 officers from Cambridge, Belmont, Brookline, Everett, Malden, Medford, and Somerville have graduated from the Center’s 40-hour mental health training. More trainings are upcoming in Fall 2015.
Created a Community-to-Community Mentoring Initiative that has provided technical support to communities in order to assemble sustainable community stakeholder groups and create collaborative responses to mental health issues.
Established an Advisory Group on Criminal Justice Diversion which includes representatives from state and local law enforcement, the judiciary, mental health providers and advocates, the Department of Mental Health, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Probation, District Attorney offices, and peers.
Initiated an Information-Sharing Project with the Cambridge Police Department and DMH to clarify and facilitate communication between law enforcement, mental health, and other systems. The project is producing education materials that demystify the legal parameters of information-sharing.
Developed partnerships with:
Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee
University of Massachusetts at Lowell
Massachusetts Chiefs of Police
Massachusetts Department of Mental Health
Harvard Law School Center for Health Policy and Innovation